Kathmandu, March 23: President Bidya Devi Bhandari here today inaugurated the first ever Nepal Girl Summit 2016 organized by Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW).
The event, a follow up to the first Girl Summit 2014 co-hosted by the UK Government and UNICEF in London, is organised in financial and technical assistance of the UK government and UNICEF at the Soaltee Crowne Plaza in the capital city.
The Summit, carrying the slogan ‘Capable Girls: Prosperous Nepal’ aims to deliberate on the strategies to be formulated to end child marriage for which high-ranking government officers from various Ministries in the country, several donor agencies and 59 children from 15 districts, including Kalikot, Baitadi, Bake, Baridya, Bajhang among others have convened in the summit.
Several separate sessions on the theme on effective implementation of policies and laws to curb child marriages, change in the social ill- practices, campaigns undertaken by the teenagers among others issue were conducted during the Summit that has been on the run for three days.
Various countries in the world, including Nepal, have pledged its commitment to ensure a future free from child marriage by 2030. A special strategy on the same has also been brought into effect by the MoWCSW.
A study shows that among the 10 girls ranging from 15-24 years, two get married before they turn 15, an age when they are neither physically nor mentally prepared and suitable to be mother.
Similarly, the study has it that of the total 10 women ranging from 20-49 age group, five get married before turning 18. The legal age bar for marriage for both men and women in Nepal is minimum 20 or above.
Education be underscored to end child marriage: Prince Harry
Addressing the Summit as the chief guest, the visiting British Prince Henry Charles Albert David ‘Harry’ hailed President Bhandari, the US First Lady Michelle Obama and activists like Malala Yusuf as the role models for championing the cause.
“Change needs to come from the bottom up. We won’t unlock these opportununites for young women and girls unless we can change the mindset of every family and community,” Prince Harry stated, citing the quote of the US First Lady Michelle.
Shedding light on the various challenges facing the girl child due to child marriage, the 31-year-old Royal shared that women made up two thirds of the nearly 800 million who were never taught to read and write.
Furthermore, Prince Harry said that more than 62 million girls were deprived of education globally.
“More than 700 million women alive today are married as children and nearly 250 million of them are married before the age of 15.”
Delivering a three-minute keynote speech, he argued that the education be made available to the girls in Nepal to end child marriage and a situation wherein the girl becomes before 20.
“Girls who marry young stay at home and don’t finish school. As a result they soon become locked in the cycle of illiteracy, poverty, ill health and ultimately powerlessness,” the Prince said, citing education is the only answer to break the cycle of illiteracy, poverty, ill health and powerlessness.
He was of the belief that the improved access to education could transform lives, families, communities and ultimately entire countries.
“When girls finish their schooling, they are empowered to improve their lives and the lives of everyone around them.”
Moreover, the fifth-in –the-line to throne, who is taking vigorous role in his charitable endeavors lately, expressed his confidence that Nepal would be able to achieve its target to end child marriage by 2030 as he noted that the government here was tackling and was making progress towards the commitment.
The Prince was quick to add the child marriage in the country had fallen by 10 per cent over the last decade. He pointed out the need for effective implementation of the laws which bans child marriage.
He said that education be under the ambit of every girl child.
Prince Harry was of the confidence that the female Head of the State and female Speaker of the House would serve as an inspiration to many girl children in the country.
On the occasion, he shared about his charitable engagement with children in Africa.
Prince Harry addressed the Girl Summit on the last day of his five-day official visit to Nepal. The visit, which is the first for Prince Harry, is to mark the bicentenary relationship between Nepal and the UK.
Also, speaking at the occasion, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Children and Social Welfare Chandra Prakash Mainali said that the strategy brought by the government into implementation to end child marriage by 2030 is bringing about positive changes in society.
He pointed out the need for collective efforts to end gender discrimination, while saying that it is a moment of pride and happiness to have Harry on a visit to Nepal on the occasion to mark 200 years old mutual relations between Nepal and UK.
Secretary at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare Madhu Regmi said that it is a matter of pride to get an opportunity to organise the conference for the first time in Nepal.
He also expressed the urge to create awareness to end child marriage.
A commoner participant Radhika Budha expressed happiness to be part of the function.
“Child marriage is rampant in Nepal. There still exists gender-based discrimination in Nepal especially in far western development region. Daughters are given less priority. So child marriage is growing,” said 14-year-old Budha from Kalikot. She said that schools should be child-friendly. RSS